Sunday, September 27, 2015

Prime and Pump Chest and Biceps Training

C.S.'s note: The chest-training methods that Jared uses in this article are ones that he first laid out in his "Prime and Pump for Massive Muscle Growth" article a couple of posts back.  Do yourself a favor and read that one first, if you haven't yet done so, before proceeding to this new bodypart-centric piece.  If you read the article below without having read the other one, you may be confused over some of the terminology Jared uses.

Prime and Pump Training for a Silverback Set of Pecs and Animalistic Arms!

by Jared Smith

I’ve heard some say that a pump will limit one's ability to go heavy. This could not be further from the truth. Physics dictates that the more mass something has, the more power it will possess. I’m not saying to obliterate a muscle with insanely high reps before attempting to go heavy, but if you pump the muscles that support the lift, it will add “mass” via sarcoplasmic expansion which will lend itself to more strength.
Everyone and their brother wants more strength and more muscle. No meat-head can call himself such if he has never been asked how much he can bench press. I’m not saying that simply moving more weight will cause hypertrophy—because no one technique or scheme of progressive overload will work forever—I am simply stating that there must be some sort of measureable progress if one is to grow larger muscles. The conventional approach to the average chest workout is to simply warm up on the bench, and put it first in the workout. While this is not a bad idea, there is a more efficient way of training. 
We start "priming" our chest by performing barbell curls with a wide grip. This serves a duel purpose: 1. This will get those elbows "ready-to-go" by pumping the biceps, giving you a “cushion” at the bottom half of the bench press. 2. By keeping your elbows in as tight to your sides as possible while curling, you will activate your external rotators, preparing the shoulders for the load to come. While performing the curl, act as if you are trying to touch your elbows together as you ascend.  Control the negative and shove in your elbows as you lower the barbell.  (I promise you the pump in the biceps— as well as the increased range of motion of your shoulder—will have you chomping at the bit to get under some hefty weights!)
Matthew Sloan builds detailed biceps by doing a lot of barbell curls

After four sets of curls for around 10 reps each, you are ready to "get under the bar". Knock out a few “feeler” sets on the bench to lock in your groove. Once you’re ready to go, you will perform five sets of 8-10 reps, resting about 40 seconds between sets. Control the negative, and use inward intent on the bar as if you are trying your damnedest to compress it together in the center. Stop the bar about an inch above your chest and pause for a second before letting it touch, then ascend, continuing with inward intent. By the last set, you should only be able to complete around six reps, but that is fine. The next time you train chest, you should be able to complete ten reps on all sets. Once this happens, you know it is time for you to increase the intensity and add some weight.
Sergio Oliva built an awesome chest by doing little other than flat bench presses

Upon completion of the bench press, it is time to keep that “pump power” going. Hammer out three sets of incline dumbbell curls—supinate on the way up and pronate on the way down. At the bottom, contract the triceps—which will insure that the biceps are fully lengthened—then squeeze the hell out of them! Keep your shoulders depressed and retracted throughout the movement, and make your biceps swell with engorged blood!
Stay where you are, because that incline bench is about to be put to use again. Grab a set of dumbbells, and pound out 4 sets of incline presses. Again, keep your shoulders depressed and keep your entire spine in line with the bench. Lock everything down, and press up and inward, but not so far that the ‘bells are directly overhead. Keep them outside the shoulders slightly to maintain tension on your pecs. Remember, the function of the pecs is not only to bring the upper arm across the torso, but to internally rotate the shoulder. On the negative, rotate the dumbbells by turning your palms in to face each other, and turn them out on the way up. This will make sure that the pec is contracted to the max! Take 40 seconds between each set of 8-10 reps.
One of the greatest "power-builders" of all time, Pat Casey loved heavy incline dumbbell benches!
Before the pump can dissipate, you will now perform three sets of preacher curls for 8-10 reps. Keep your chin up and get your elbows as close together as possible. Never stop at the top or bottom of the exercise. Try to keep a count of three-up, three-down in your mind, and never pause. The burn and pump will be immense, but keep grinding! Keeping with the same rest period, knock these reps out, and make your peaks scream!
To finish off the workout, you will perform a superset that will test your mettle: classic wide grip dips and close grip, palms-in pulldowns. I know what you may be thinking, “Aren’t close-grip pulldowns a back exercise?” and you’re right. It also happens to be—in my humble opinion—the single greatest biceps builder on the planet! Focus on squeezing them throughout the movement, and feeling them contract all the way up to your shoulder. This means you’re hitting your biceps from two points. Not only are you adding thickness to your lower biceps, but the peak contraction you’ll feel is insane! Control the negative of both movements and never stop thinking about contracting the hell out of the target muscle! Three sets of each to absolute failure. Shoot for 8-10 on all sets, but as long as you are failing somewhere close to that on the last set, that is what counts. 

The Rundown: 
Wide Grip Barbell Curls 4x8-10
Bench Presses with Inward intent 5x8-10
Incline Dumbbell Curls 3x8-10
Incline Dumbbell Presses 4x8-10
Preacher Curls 3x8-10
Wide Grip Dips superset with Close Grip Palms-in Pulldowns 3x8-10

     There you have it. The perfect way to pulverize your pecs, and mutilate your meat hooks! The volume is not insanely high, but squeeze each and every rep as if your life depends on it. How do you know your set is done? When the muscle won’t contract anymore! There is nothing complicated about going to failure—you must simply work until that muscle refuses to. Look deep within your own mind, and push past your comfort zone. If you have to use a rest-pause to hit your target rep range on the last set, then do so. If you must perform a drop set to hit the designated number of reps, it’s all good. Intensity is the name of the game. There is no time to screw around and no time to take it easy in the quest for ultimate muscle mass. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Classic Bodybuilding: The Mass Building Methods of Steve Davis

     In the late '70s-early '80s,  Steve Davis became a well-known figure in the bodybuilding world.  He graced the cover of quite a few bodybuilding magazines due to his "classical" physique—he was by no means "massive" in the sense that we think of it today, but he had clean lines, and a well-proportioned physique.  But it wasn't necessarily his build that made him so popular, but, rather, the transformation that occurred in his body.
     You can see Steve's rather impressive transformation on the cover of his popular book "Total Muscularity."

     In addition to the above book, he also wrote a few others, but "Total Muscularity" remained the favorite among his readers.
     When I took up serious bodybuilding training in the early '90s, Davis wrote a monthly column for MuscleMag International that, I'm afraid, was overlooked by many of its readers—I just never felt as if Steve got his just due for (not just) his physique, but his knowledge of muscle-building and his expert dietary advice.
     Steve had some great advice for building mass—advice that can still be used today to great success.  One of the intriguing things that he used was something called a "set series"—the program below is built on the "set series" premise.
Steve shows off his classical lines in competition

Steve's 12 Keys for Building Quality Mass
     Here are the "12 keys" that Steve believed in, and recommended, for building muscle:
  1. Train each bodypart 2x per week.
  2. Use 8 reps for arms, chest, shoulders, and back exercises.
  3. Use 15 reps for calves, lower back, quadriceps, and hamstring development.
  4. Do not do ab work on a mass-building regimen.
  5. Wear a watch and time your rest between sets.  Keep it at 30-45 seconds, the shorter the better.
  6. Perform 2 exercises per bodypart (see sample routine).
  7. For each exercise, do a light warm-up set and then 6 sets using the same weight, reps, and rest between sets.  Steve called this a "set series."
  8. Keep a chart, and increase your weight each week.    Even tiny increases are good.
  9. Rest 3 minutes after each set series.
  10. Think heavy weights.  Lift heavy weights.
  11. Take in one gram of high-quality protein for each pound of bodyweight.  
  12. Follow the "Master Diets" found in any of Steve's books.
On the cover of the defunct Muscle World magazine

The Steve Davis Mass Blast
     Using the following routine, you would train six days on, one day off, your only day of the week off being Sunday:
Monday and Thursday
Chest, Back, and Lower Back
  1. Bench Presses 2x8
  2. Dumbbell Incline Presses 2x8
  3. Dumbbell Pullovers 2x8
  4. Bent-Over Rows 2x8
  5. Behind-the-Neck Pulldowns 2x8
  6. Hyperextentions 2x8
Tuesday and Friday
Shoulders, Arms, and Forearms
  1. Behind-the-Neck Presses 2x8
  2. Dumbbell Lateral Raises 2x8
  3. Barbell Curls 2x8
  4. Incline Dumbbell Curls 2x8
  5. Close-Grip 2/3 Bench Presses 2x8
  6. Non-Locking Pushdowns 2x8
  7. Reverse Curls 2x8
Wednesday and Saturday
Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Calves, and Lower Back
  1. Front Squats 2x15
  2. Hack Squats 2x15
  3. Leg Curls 2x15
  4. Donkey Calf Raises 2x15
  5. Standing Calf Raises 2x15
  6. Hyperextensions 2x8

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Prime and Pump for Massive Muscle Growth

Why are you warming up, when you could be priming your muscles for growth?!

by Jared Smith

I have never been one to just take the word of a scientist in a lab coat with no real world training experience. Many experienced lifters figure things out years before science finally catches up. For instance, look at the golden era of bodybuilding when antagonistic supersets were all the rage. Science now shows that training a muscle's antagonist increases performance for both! Well before the days of "human performance "labs", much like the one headed up by Dr. Jacob Wilson at the University of Tampa, time-tested meat heads were pumping opposing muscles to get the most out of training. Some of the methods I’ve come to love are unconventional, even by the standards of those who do love the pairing of agonist/antagonist muscle groups. 

Arnold —seen here looking cool—was a big fan of pairing agonist/antagonist muscles

For instance, I’m a firm believer that stretching a muscle before there is any blood in it is dangerous.  We know that static stretching prior to weight training can compromise performance. With that said, how do we effectively warm up without compromising performance? 
(Before anyone thinks that I’m anti-stretching, I am not. There just happens to be a time and place for everything, stretching included.)
     Prior to training, a muscle needs to be activated and the connective tissues need to be made pliable. A dynamic stretch of sorts is needed. A brief stretch repeated several times is great, provided that it ends in a contraction! An example of this is pumping the biceps with some high-rep work prior to training chest. A barbell curl will activate the external rotators as well as stretch the triceps tendon a little bit without having to hold it statically. Remember, the only way for a muscle to be completely contracted is for its antagonist to be completely elongated. With the elbows now primed and ready to go, you also have a pumped bicep that will act as a buffer zone at the base of a bench press (and should make you feel much stronger). As you can see, I am a proponent of stretching, as long as it’s not static, prior to loading your muscle tissues with heavy weights. (Static stretching does have a place, but we will get to that later.)

Personal Experience
There are some movements that felt terrible on my joints, until I started pumping another muscle before training it. The barbell overhead press was definitely one of those. No matter how many “warm-up’’ sets I did, it never ceased to make my shoulders feel as if they were being ground to bits. To remedy this problem, I decided to engorge my traps and rear delts with blood.  Once these muscles had a good, solid pump, I found that my joints felt more stable. Though the weights were slightly down when I performed my work sets, the contraction was much more intense, which is what will make your muscles grow!
The next combination that I’ve found to work  well is one that I admittedly "jacked" from D.C. Training creator Dante Trudel. I find that pumping the calves, followed by an intra-set stretch, promotes greater flexibility and allows me to keep my heals seemingly "glued" to the ground when squatting. I will also perform several sets of leg curls prior to training quads. This allows for my quad tendons ready to be "primed" and preps my knees for the compound assault! 
This protocol is perfect for anyone who has some years under their belt in the gym, as well as any wear and tear on their joints. I must admit: I was surprised at how much my performance increased once I started utilizing this approach. 
     In addition to priming before training, I added stretching where it matters most—after training a muscle! Once I’d thrashed the muscle—and pumped it with plenty of growth-enducing blood—I performed static stretching. I’ve found that this facilitates recovery and loosens the fascia to allow the muscles to expand, which I’ve found is great at eliminating that “tight” feeling the days following a workout. 

Let’s Prime and Pump it!
     Here is what several workouts should look like using this technique:

Workout 1: Chest/Biceps
Preacher Curls 3x 25,15,10
Incline Dumbbell curls(supinate on the way up and pronate on the way down)3x10,15,25
Reverse curls 3x30,20,10
Dumbbell Bench Presses 4x8-12
Incline Barbell Presses 3x8-12
Weighted Dips Superset with Dumbbell flies 2x8-12

Workout 2: Quads/Hams/Calves
Standing Calf Raises 3x10-12. On the last set, hold the stretch position for 10 seconds on each rep.
Lying leg Curls 3x8-12. Hold the contraction for a two count on each rep. You can perform a rest-pause set on the final set if you want to ramp up the intensity, just keep a slow, deliberate tempo and squeeze the hell out of it!
Squats 5x8-12. Make sure to keep tension while squatting. The best way to do so is by imagining that you’re pulling yourself down by the hamstrings. This will force you to keep everything tight. The weight will be somewhat limited by this, but the pump and (good) pain you’ll feel in your quads will be tremendous! The last set should be almost impossible. If you don’t quite get the designated number of reps, that is fine. The point is to push as hard as you can and once you fail, that is all she wrote!
Leg presses 4x30,25,20,15. Keep these moving like a piston to finish off your wheels. If you need to rest-pause these to get all the volume in, feel free!

Workout 3: Shoulders/Triceps
Bent-over Dumbbell Trap Row 3x 30,20,15. This movement is a hybrid—not quite a lat row, and not quite a rear lateral. I find that these get blood into the rear delts, as well as the mid/lower traps, very well. Give them a try and I promise you’ll love them!
Standing Barbell Shoulder press 4x 8-12. Keep these under control. You will find that after the trap row, there will be an intense pump in your upper back and rear delts, which will make this movement feel much better. Being more aware of your upper back when pressing has a good advantage—this will allow you to stay tighter and really torch your shoulders.
Lateral Raises 8x10—Run the rack. Start off with a light weight for ten, and increase three times with no rest. After you’re done with the fourth set, go back the other way. Brutal, but awesome! Your shoulders should be screaming!
Triceps Pushdowns 4x30,25,20,15
Skull Crushers (straight bar) 3x8-12

Workout 4: Back
Before you begin training back, perform a few light sets of flyes for chest, then stretch it out. Since the pecs are the antagonist for the lats, you need to make sure they aren’t tight so that you can get your back in a fully contracted position. Once your pecs feel stretched, only then should you begin.
Stiff Arm pulldowns 4x30,25,20,15. Keep the tempo piston-like and try to get a solid pump before moving on.
Wide grip Pulldowns 3x 8-12. Perform a rest-pause on the last set.
One Arm Dumbbell rows 3x8-12
Deadlifts 3x4-6. These sets should feel like torture after what proceeded them, but the result will be a much thicker back.

     So there you have it: a program geared toward packing on the beef without killing the joints. Wear and tear will happen, but it doesn’t have to slow you down. I’ve given you the tools, now it is time for you to hit the gym and perform some priming and pumping of your own!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

3 Methods for Pain-Free Dieting (and Awesome Results)

Three Ways to Make Dieting Easy—and Even Increase Your Performance

By Matthew Sloan
author Matthew Sloan

     Any form of dieting can be stressful on the body, the mind, and your emotions, and sometimes the idea of "just push through it" isn't enough. Sometimes we all need some extra motivation or special methods to get us through the day or week. So here are three methods I personally use to make dieting easier, and I think any serious bodybuilder, lifter, or strength athlete can use them to his or her advantage.
The 3 Methods
     The first method is to just simply switch up your training. This switch up should be something " fun" or "exciting" to give yourself something to look forward to (because dieting for weeks on end can get repetitive). For example, if you are following my “lean mass-made-simple program” from a few posts back, and are getting bored with the training, then try something new for a day, then get back on the program. So, if you're doing 10x10 at the time and need just a " fun" type of day, then have an “all-out arm assault day” with supersets and tri-sets, and just go for the " pump". Another example would be if you are on a “cutting” regimen and have started to implement some cardio (three days a week or so) and are getting bored of it—or lacking in the motivation for it due to the caloric restrictions—then have some fun with your cardio. Maybe go to your gym's bike class or even something such as a "Zumba"[1] class. Whenever you are dieting (especially while in a caloric deficit), then you have got to keep the training fun and interesting. If you don't, then you will have difficulty sticking with it, and when you aren't consistent with your training, you aren't consistent with the results
     The second method is to have a cheat meal! Cheat Meals are a perfect way to give your mind a boost in motivation. There's nothing like the feeling of rewarding yourself with a tasty meal after a strict week of dieting. The way I do cheat meals, while in a deficit, is to consume a cheat meal after every three days of dieting. But this is only because I have acquired a fast metabolism (no I have not always had a fast metabolism) that is the result of proper dieting and training. So if you know that you have a fast metabolism, then you can treat cheat meals the way I do, but if you have always had problems with your weight, and think that you have of a slower metabolism, then I would have a cheat meal after every five days of dieting. (If you dieted strictly Monday through Friday, then have a cheat meal on Saturday.) For your cheat meal, you will want to have a predominately high-carbohydrate meal, because one of the main benefits of these (aside from the mental boost) is the increase in leptin levels in your body—and high carbs is how you increase your leptin.  Leptin is one of the key components of burning off fat, and should not be overlooked. When you have a cheat meal, you must not feel guilty about it, otherwise the meal will do more harm than good, because you will be de-motivated (and your mood might just plain suck!).
     The final method I use to make dieting easier is to make your food taste good! When the food you are eating is bland and boring, then sticking to your nutritional regimen can prove to be doubly difficult. So when you prepare your tilapia or your chicken breast—two of the mainstays of my personal diet—make sure you season it well.  (Tasty fish or chicken is always something to look forward to in my book.)
     If you have a problem staying away from the sweets, then go ahead and peruse the internet for some healthy dessert recipes. You can even use artificial sweeteners in your Greek yogurt, or instead of drinking only water, you can drink some flavored zero-calorie drinks (and, no, there are not significant harmful effects of artificial sweeteners). Keeping your food tasteful—not to mention enjoyable—is one of the biggest factors in sticking with a diet, and, ultimately, making it a successful one.
In Conclusion
     From a nutritional aspect, there are many different methods that you have at your disposable to make things easier.  And although there are “easier” ways to reach your goals, there are no shortcuts. So stay consistent, listen to your body, adapt to your needs (and your occasional desires), and keep growing!

[1] C.S.’s note: I’m pretty sure my son put in this one for his stepmother (and my wife) who also happens to be a Zumba instructor.